by Mark Streatfield
22 August 2017
MPC Green Room: Meet Mark
Jaw-dropping visual effects achieved in recent MPC shows like Ghost in the Shell and The Jungle Book are only possible with a team of technology superstars in the background driving things forward.
We’re currently hiring in Montreal, London and Bangalore across a range of different roles and at various levels. Successful applicants in Bangalore will receive training in our newly launched Software Academy so, if you’re switching from another industry, you’ll soon be an expert in all things VFX.
Mark Streatfield is currently in his second stint at MPC, working in the Core Engineering team in London. He recently shared some thoughts about getting into the VFX industry as well as what it’s like to work in such a fast-paced and innovative environment…
What is your name, job title and how long have you been at MPC?
My name is Mark Streatfield and I am a Lead in the Core Engineering department at MPC in London.
This is the second time I have worked at MPC, which means I have been here for nearly 7 years overall.
What and where did you study?
I have a Bachelors degree in Computer Animation and Visualization from Bournemouth University, and I have taken a short course in Psychology at Birkbeck University.
Did you always want to work in the VFX industry?
To be honest, not really!
I’m not sure I’ve ever had much in the way of a career plan, more a quiet ambition to see where different opportunities lead.
When I was younger, I remember being fascinated by the set and lighting design for theatre productions. This initially lead me towards the special or practical effects side of film production (SFX), pyrotechnics in particular.
When it came time to pick A-Level subjects at school (and filling in the UCAS form for university) I found the NCCA at Bournemouth University and realised that VFX might be an option for me.
From then on, I focused more specifically on the VFX industry and finding a pathway to a company such as MPC.
What single piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into the VFX industry?
To keep trying.
As the industry is comparatively small finding the right opportunity for you may lead in a number of different directions. And sometimes there is a perception that you need an artistic or creative background to work in VFX which, for many roles and particularly in Core Engineering, is not the case.
However the possible ways to join the industry is only increasing; from awareness of the industry at large, to internships and specialised courses such as MPC’s Academy.
If you keep trying, you will find a role and company that is right for you.
What key skills do you need to do your job?
Being able to manage change and deal with uncertainty is essential.
Few things at MPC are immune from change and most of our technology stack is undergoing continual improvement on a regular, if not daily, basis. The motivation for this may come from many different sources; in response to changing technology from our vendors, meeting the needs of our clients, uncovering potential business opportunities, or sometimes just maintaining status quo.
Communicating these changes to mitigate the uncertainty they may bring, including the ‘why’ part of the message, is necessary to ensure the change is successful.
What excites you most about your job at MPC?
Being able to use technology to help solve a problem that enables MPC to work on projects that might not have otherwise been possible.
All of the software we develop is built to help solve a problem somewhere in the business, and the impact it has can range from helping a few artists working on a single shot to transforming the way an entire department works.
I’ve always enjoyed working with production and see someone be able to work more effectively, quickly, or easily because of a piece of software I’ve worked on.
What’s your favourite VFX movie?
It is maybe a little clichéd, but it’s probably Jurassic Park.
Jurassic Park is the first movie I really remember seeing at the cinema, which means it was also the first time I’d seen VFX (of any scale) on the big screen.
The hairs on the back of my neck still tingle when I watch the opening sequences; hearing the main theme from the soundtrack and seeing the dinosaurs for the first time.
How would you describe the culture at MPC?
I think we’re always trying to push what’s possible.
Where we can, we re-purpose the software and technology that we already have, so that we can focus on stretching our stack into areas that allow us to innovate and mark a difference between MPC and other companies.
Which 3 words best describe your job?
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
Maybe on the more obscure side, but I often enjoy a spot of software archaeology!
Due to the pace at which the industry moves and the number of film projects MPC has worked on, we have accumulated quite a back catalogue of software projects. These projects span technologies that were in use at any given time, a particular style of development, or even the structure of the business; and much is still in use today.
This can be a challenge when responding to a problem for production as it can sometimes require digging through the different strata of software to be able to resolve the issue; understanding the context in which it was produced, it’s purpose, and how it relates to the rest of the stack.
However it is one that I quite enjoy as you often find a gem or two along the way!
What inspires you?
I’ve always enjoyed watching the dailies for the shots we are working on; seeing a shot progress from virtually nothing but a small piece of green screen footage to the final image that appears in the cinema.
As the artist continues to iterate on the shot you get a glimpse of the creative and technical challenges they face, and a real appreciation for all the departments that are working together to contribute different elements. As well as inspiring, I find this quite grounding; it reminds you why we do the work we do.
How would you describe your approach to your job?
I try to be versatile and pragmatic in approaching my work.
I find this helps me balance the compromise between what might be considered ‘best practice’ software development, and the needs of the business and the problems that come our way.